Sunday, July 15, 2012

Floor Tape, How Do I Love Thee? (Video Edition)

I'm in the middle of summer programming.  It's Math in Your Feet in a lot of ways but also not completely like the program I do in schools.  It's more like a whirlwind of percussive choreography, rhythm, and patterns of all kinds. There's also a lot of math in there as well, just not explicitly. 

My reasoning for this that kids need as much exposure as possible to patterns in multiple, diverse contexts.  These kids I've been working with, for example, are a perfect case in point.  When asked on the first day to find patterns in the room in which we were working, they were at a loss.  In all the groups, color patterns were found first.  Then somebody would notice a sequence of objects, but it didn't repeat.  A potential pattern unit, but not a pattern in itself.  Even the three examples of simple tilings in the room (floor, ceiling and walls) escaped notice, even when I pointed them out. 

Patterns are more than sequences of colors.  They are more than two dimensional shapes.  They are sounds, movements, expressions, order. They are long and short.  They repeat.  They change.  They're everywhere. So, when I say we're not talking about math explicitly I mean we don't need to talk about it because we're doing it.  Calling it 'math' interrupts the flow we've created -- sometimes just doing and experiencing is enough.  This doing time is a chance to get swept up in the creating, to be fully engaged and amazed and delighted in your own abilities.  I believe this because, simply put, that is what I find best about learning something new.

On top of the sheer fun of watching kids engage in new pursuits like percussive dance, one of the reasons I'm enjoying doing the summer version of Math in Your Feet is that I have leeway to experiment with how I deliver the program, engage my young dancers (right now ages eight to eleven) and how I set up the space.

In the videos, below, you can see what I'm trying out right now.  This big grid isn't the normal setup for Math in Your Feet but I was really excited to tape out the space this way.  Normally, when kids start making up their own dance patterns they usually get their own personal square dance spaces taped out in individual groups of two, each pair slightly separated from the other groups. I'll be very interested in how the new set up works out (or doesn't). 

This new set up came about because the floor really lent itself to a large grid format. The girls in the room were hanging out with me before class while I set up and helped me tape out the floor.  Any time I have a chance to let kids help me tape, from preschool to upper elementary, my helpers invariably end up spontaneously exploring their newly taped environment without any prompting.  This is actually my favorite time with kids -- manipulating the floor space with tape and then seeing what they do when they first discover it.  Here's a peek at the space and the only part of their exploration I could capture on video:

Their movement is a natural kid reaction to squares -- Hop Scotch!  But in this second little clip you can see how they started exploring rows as well as columns.

Later, during our class time, when we were talking again about other kinds of patterns they could find, other than the ones we were making with our hands and feet, they noticed that each square of the large blue grid was made up of four smaller tile squares.  Given that on the first day they never even noticed how the floor was designed when I asked them about patterns in the room (before I put down this grid), this was a huge step forward at identifying and describing the structure of their environment.

Speaking of patterns, I've also been sneaking in some Fibonacci numbers as well.   But that's for a future post...  In the mean time, here's my original love note about floor tape and its myriad uses.  And, one of my favorite posts in this blog about how the tape on the floor serves as the 'third teacher' in my Math in Your Feet residencies.

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